Ahhhh, a most interesting question, and one I (may) have to deal with in my PhD. Walvisteuthis virilis
was placed in its own family, Walvisteuthidae, by Nesis & Nikitina when they described it in 1986, because it had some very unusual characteristics, including the tentacle club morphology. Subsequently Young et al
. (on the Tree of Life link you gave) deemed this species a junior synonym of Onykia rancureli
Okutani, 1981. Since Young et al
. consider 'virilis
' and 'rancureli
' to refer to the same species, the older name (rancureli
) is the valid one, IF these species are the same (more on that in a minute). However, this/these species is/are different enough from the other onychoteuthids to deserve its/their own genus, so the new genus name, Walvisteuthis
, was kept, giving the new binomial 'Walvisteuthis rancureli
Problem is, the two type specimens described (see O. rancureli here
and W. virilis here
on the Tree of Life) do have some similarities, but also some very striking differences, such as the presence of teeth on the sucker rings in W. virilis
(all other onychoteuthid species have completely smooth, toothless sucker rings), and the very, very strange morphology of the tentacle clubs in the W. virilis
So far I have not been able to examine a specimen of W. virilis
- the holotype is at the Zoological Museum, Moscow State University, where I hope to be making a collection visit later this year, and the nice specimen in the ToL photo was not available when I went to the Smithsonian. I have examined one of the paratypes of O. rancureli
and it certainly had smooth sucker rings and tentacle clubs that did not look like those described/figured for W. virilis
, so I have some pretty strong reservations about the synonymy, but since I haven't examined any W. virilis
myself, I'm not *actually* qualified to make any judgement yet.
In short... the family Walvisteuthidae may or may not exist; and the genus Walvisteuthis
belongs either in the Onychoteuthidae or its own family, and currently contains a single species, which could either be virilis
as originally described or the older name rancureli
if these two species prove to be one and the same; BUT there is also a possbility that O. rancureli
and W. virilis
could be two species in the same genus, in which case Walvisteuthis
would have two species.
Aren't you glad you asked?
If/when I get to examine a W. virilis
specimen, I'll post a follow-up here.